Google Announces Customer Match: Opportunity to Leverage Customer Data to Align with Intent

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Google Announces Customer Match: Opportunity to Leverage Customer Data to Align with Intent

Google has announced a new way for brands to target ads—by email address. According to Google, “Customer Match allows you to upload a list of email addresses, which can be matched to signed-in users on Google in a secure and privacy-safe way. From there, you can build campaigns and ads specifically designed to reach your audience . . . in ways that are most relevant to their intent.”  This includes ads in Search, YouTube and Gmail.

The email addresses come from advertisers’ databases (e.g. emails volunteered by customers on brand websites or through store loyalty programs).  To illustrate, a retailer could give Google the email address of a recent purchaser; that retailer could then serve a paid search ad to that specific purchaser if he later searches for a complementary product.

This capability mirrors Facebook’s Custom Audiences, which enable advertisers to upload email addresses.  Facebook then delivers custom ads to the specific people associated with the email addresses, which has resulted in great success for Performics clients over the past few years—higher conversion rates and lower costs vs. other remarketing methods.

In addition to Customer Match, Google released a new tool that uses lookalike algorithms to identify individuals with traits similar to your current customers. These individuals will also be targetable on YouTube and Gmail.


In a world where digital advertising is personalized and contextual, delivering the right experience, at the right moment, is critical.  If brands can better understand customer intent, they can deliver more relevant and personalized bids, ad copy and landing pages to (1) connect at moments that matter and (2) drive cost efficiency.

  • Customer Data Integration: Digital marketing and customer marketing have been converging for years. The ability to leverage first-party, customer data for targeting and optimization fuels relevancy and personalization.  By integrating customer data—like email—into targeting/messaging strategies, advertisers can stop treating every customer the same (e.g. segment messaging or bid strategy to new vs. existing customers).  Email addresses may also be associated with other information (e.g. age, gender, geo, prior interactions) that could enable brands to further tailor ads to specific customers and intents.  Customer Match enables marketers to more effectively bring the rich models of CRM programs to search and video.
  • Beyond RLSA: Previously, search marketers relied on Remarketing Lists for Search (RLSA) to marry customer insights and targeting. But now, Customer Match gets brands closer to creating a universal view of customers than AdWords previously could.  This includes the ability for better message sequencing and consistent targeting across omnichannel touchpoints.
  • Matching Partners: The ability for brands to directly provide Google with customer email addresses cuts out/minimizes the role of matching partners. The end result (e.g. matching an ad to an email address) isn’t much different that utilizing a partner to pass an ID and sync it back; but now, Google can do this more directly.
  • Focus on Mobile & Video: People want experiences that meet their immediate needs—no matter where they are. This often occurs on mobile.  With Customer Match, brands can deliver mobile experiences geared to immediate needs, making every moment more “shoppable.”   Additionally, Customer Match extends to YouTube.  Both mobile and video are key focuses for Google in this update, and it’s here where Facebook (e.g. Custom Audiences) and Google are going head-to-head.


  • Segment-Specific Strategies: A database of email addresses, in itself, won’t help you create better ad experiences. The key is defining that data and segmenting it (e.g. how is a new customer defined?).  The more highly defined each email list is, the better you’ll be able to match that list to custom targets/messages: acquisition, cross-sell, up-sell, retention or loyalty.  At Performics, we advise clients to:
    • Identify audiences with clearly differentiated needs
    • Tailor messaging against these audiences
    • Customize reach/frequency against segments based on performance—even where they don’t require separate messaging
    • Engage CRM teams to apply existing segmentation
  • Maintenance: Email lists must be updated as customers sign-up, churn, change segments due to behavior, or opt-out. These lists must be kept up-to-date to maximize effectiveness. Most marketers maintain their lists at least daily, with segment membership getting updated anywhere from real-time to monthly.  The frequency of updates depends on how large and active your customer database is.  Google requires lists to be updated at least once every seven days.  Also, Google requires advertisers to import their own lists; DMPs cannot import on the advertiser’s behalf.
  • Match Rates: The person would have to be logged-in to Google (with their email address) in order for Google to match an ad to that email address. While many people are consistently logged-in to their Gmail accounts, match rates may be lower on Google than with Facebook Custom Audiences (Facebook now has 1B+ daily active users; Gmail has 900M daily active users, 75% on mobile). On mobile, Android users (1B+ active) will be more likely to receive ads using Customer Match, as they’re logged-in to Google.
  • Privacy: Email addresses can be associated with personally identifiable information (PII) (e.g. credit card numbers, addresses and phone numbers). Email addresses used in Customer Match must be fiercely protected given the risks around consumer data. As targeting like this becomes more common, brands need to double-down on controls to manage consumer privacy. This requires education around corporate standards and encryption.  Performics recommends using the SHA-256 algorithm for encrypting email addresses.

At Performics, our Data Activation practice brings planners, technologists, analysts and marketers to the table to help brands (1) define and segment data—like email—to make it actionable, (2) elevate experiences through customer data integration and (3) better measure to power optimization.  We’re excited about all new opportunities to leverage customer data to drive performance and efficiency.

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